by Sebastian Cenizo
Possibly the last unelectrified version of the R8 supercar, the 2020 model of Audi's mid-engined halo car has been significantly revised to keep pace with the competition. The R8 starts at $169,900 and gives you 562 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque from its naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox controls output to all four wheels. Also available is the pricier model formerly known as the R8 V10 Plus, now called R8 V10 Performance, which starts at just over $195,000. The same drivetrain setup is fitted to the Performance but with more power - 602 hp to be exact. Torque also increases to 413 lb-ft. One of the most user-friendly supercars on sale, the R8 has the everyday refinement of BMW's i8 and Acura's NSX, with the available acceleration of a Lamborghini Huracan, but at a much lower price.
The 2020 R8 has been comprehensively overhauled, although not completely redesigned. New bumpers, a new rear diffuser, larger exhaust tips, redesigned rocker panels, new forged aluminum wheels, and a change in tire supplier from Pirelli to Michelin are among the updates for the 2020 model. The traction and stability control systems have also been fine-tuned, presumably to help cope with a 30-hp increase on the base version, and a lighter carbon and aluminum front anti-roll bar that provides more stiffness, is also available. The rear-wheel-drive RWS model has also been discontinued, although we fully expect a limited edition to be released before the R8 says goodbye to naturally-aspirated V10s. The R8 Plus model has the same power output as last year, but now goes by the name R8 Performance. A limited-edition Decennium model was also created, with 50 examples commemorating ten years of V10 engined R8s. However, this model's changes are strictly cosmetic, with copper stitching and bronze wheels being the main highlights.
The R8 has managed to stay both fresh and exciting, blending Audi design principles with supercar flair, making it unmistakable as anything but an R8. For 2020, the bumpers feature much more angular vents at the front, along with a wider grille and LED or LED/laser headlights. Down the sides, the standard 19- or optional 20-inch wheels frame aggressive rocker panels and the trademark sideblade that R8s are known for. The back features a pair of honeycomb vents that become one long rear grille, accentuating the width of the car. Huge oval exhaust tips and a larger rear diffuser complete the racy look, while an electric rear spoiler adds some drama. A lot of carbon fiber can be added to various parts of the body, with Performance models getting a fixed carbon wing as standard.
The R8 maintains classic supercar proportions with a low stance and a wide footprint. The car measures 76.8 inches wide with a diminutive height of around 49 inches. The length is 174.3 inches from nose to tail with a wheelbase measuring 104.4 inches. Curb weight measures just over 3,500 lbs, which is impressive considering that the R8 is burdened by an all-wheel-drive system.
The 2020 R8 is available in two no-cost paint finishes: Ibis White and Vegas Yellow. Six other options are available for $595 each, with Daytona Gray Pearl, Florett Silver metallic, Kemora Gray metallic, Mythos Black metallic, Suzuka Gray metallic, and Tango Red metallic on the list. A particularly vibrant shade of blue called Ara Blue Crystal is also available for $1,075, but if none of these are to your liking, Audi Exclusive can offer a custom gloss finish for $3,900 or a custom matte spray job for $6,800. R8 Performance models don't have access to Ara Blue but are available with an exclusive and darker shade called Ascari Blue metallic, for $595. All other paint options available on the regular R8 are also available here. The limited-edition Decennium model is only available in Mythos Black and features matte bronze wheels.
The R8 and R8 Performance are both powered by a 5.2-liter V10, in varying states of tune. The standard model develops 562 hp and 406 lb-ft, while the Performance model ups that to 602 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Both are fitted with Quattro all-wheel-drive and seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearboxes, allowing for a 0-60 mph sprint of just 3.4 seconds in the base model and 3.2 in the Performance. Both models can crack 200 mph if you can find a straight long enough, with top speeds of 201 and 205 mph respectively. By comparison, BMW's i8 will only reach a limited 155 mph and Acura's NSX runs out of thrust at 191 mph. The NSX can out-launch the R8 off the line though, with a 0-60 time of just 2.7 seconds. However, neither the Bimmer nor the posh Honda can match the R8 for drama and raw aural assault, with the R8's V10 howling all the way to 8,700 rpm, making a beautiful shriek through each gear. The NSX may provide more power and more torque, but the experience in the R8 is so much more raw and primitive in all the right ways.
The R8 was once available with a manual gearbox and a V8 engine, but buyers preferred the V10 and bought far more of them. Even today, the trend is to go for the fastest available model - in this case, the Performance. However, the regular R8 is by no means slow and will be just as exciting. The R8 5.2-liter V10 is thankfully devoid of forced induction, providing a predictable power curve and a more rewarding tone the harder you push it. The V10 is shared with that of the Lamborghini Huracan Evo, and although the Italian ekes more power from the mill (630 hp), the base 562 hp Audi can reach the same top speed of 201 mph, with the R8 Performance exceeding the Lambo's top speed by four mph. However, the Audi's USP has always been its usability and the fact that you can use it day to day without having to deal with jerky gearshifts or excessively noisy exhaust systems when you're just cruising around town. The active exhaust allows you to potter between the traffic lights without looking like an attention-seeking bore, and although the engine really comes alive after 4,000 rpm, overtaking without downshifting is child's play for the R8. The seven-speed does cruising perfectly too, shifting into top gear and maintaining momentum with ease. Although you can shift gears yourself, the transmission works well enough that you don't have to, with crisp and clean changes every time.
The R8's Quattro system is hallowed for its ability to keep a car planted in the corners, regardless of the surface conditions. In their more traditional offerings, that is undone by a heavy nose that causes understeer. However, the R8 is mid-engined and therefore isn't afflicted with this problem. According to R8 product manager Anthony Garbis, you can even slide the car in Sport mode and take advantage of snap throttle oversteer, if you're so inclined. The suspension is compliant and supple, particularly when compared to more traditional supercars like the Lambo. The stability control system is constantly adjusting and ensuring that the car has the maximum grip possible too, but it's not all good news. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes, although outstanding for track work, are far too grabby and bite down too aggressively when all you're after is a smooth stop. These brakes are standard on the Performance model, so perhaps a "normal" R8 is a better choice for daily driving. The steering, on the other hand, is addictively well-weighted and eating up corners is a joy. This is further enhanced by an optional variable-ratio steering system. The car has a sense of rear-wheel-driven bias, and that's not imaginary, as the all-wheel-drive system's Dynamic mode will try to shift as much power as possible to the rear to improve handling. Overall, the R8 is a confidence-building machine that encourages spirited driving but still keeps things contained when your skills run out, and that's what makes it such an attractive offering in the supercar market.
Despite differing power outputs, the R8 and R8 Performance manage the same figures on the EPA's tests, with 13/20/16 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. However, the size of their gas tanks do differ, with the Performance model using a smaller 19.3-gallon gas tank presumably in an effort to reduce weight. The R8 Performance, therefore, has an estimated range of around 308.8 miles, while the regular R8 will manage around 350.4 miles between fill-ups. The Acura NSX and BMW i8 hybrids fare predictably better, with combined ratings of 21 and 27 mpg respectively.
The R8 is lavishly appointed with Nappa leather and Alcantara as standard, with plenty of carbon available to spice things up further. The cockpit is dominated by the instrument binnacle and its 12.3-inch instrument display, ahead of which sits a steering wheel that takes the term "multifunction" to the next level. Start/stop, infotainment, screen configurations, gearchanges - all of it is controlled by the steering wheel. Unusually, there is no central screen, so you'll never have your co-driver messing with your favorite tunes. Although simplistic in design, the R8's cockpit manages to look both advanced and upmarket, while the driver's side and its dash moldings show that this side of the cabin is clearly where the focus lies. The passenger hasn't been forgotten about though, as you still get dual-zone climate control and heated seats for both occupants.
Part of what makes the R8 a bona fide supercar is its mid-engined two-seater layout. Supercars also have to be quite low, so taller occupants may have to bend on their way in and out. The sport seats that are standard on the Performance model are also quite confining, and although this helps keep your butt in the right place if you're of average size, the aggressive bolstering and lack of adjustability will make it uncomfortable for larger individuals. The standard seats in the regular R8 are far more accommodating in this respect, offering 18-way power adjustment.
The R8's interior comes with Alcantara headlining and Nappa leather upholstery as standard, all of which is in black with black stitching as standard on the R8 Performance. The regular R8 has access to red, blue, gray, yellow, or black stitching as standard and can also have red, brown, or Pastel Silver upholstery at no extra charge. Alternatively, you can have diamond-stitched quilting for an added cost of $5,000 on either model. This can be had with the same black, Express Red, Palomino Brown, or Pastel Silver upholstery that is a no-cost option with regular stitching. The seats and headliner both get the quilting treatment, making the R8's interior look considerably more luxurious. Performance models replace the regular R8's soft plastics with mostly carbon fiber as standard, although you can add this as an option.
The R8 is by no means practical, and with no rear seats, you don't exactly have a lot of space to put extra stuff. There is a trunk in the front of the car that could fit a pair of duffel bags or a single overnight bag, as well as a small space behind the seats, but collectively, this only adds up to eight cubic feet of storage.
Small-item storage in the cabin is similarly restrictive, with a small tray for a phone or your wallet in the center console below the dash, and another even smaller spot between the seats where the two medium-sized cupholders reside. The glovebox is also very small, and the door cards are unlikely to hold more than a set of keys each.
The R8 has a not-too-extensive feature list as standard, but is still fairly well equipped. Heated seats are standard, along with a 12.3-inch digital driver display that can be configured to show either infotainment, navigation, or engine vitals. Most functions of the car are controlled via the steering wheel, which is endowed with numerous buttons. The R8 also has rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, heated power-folding wing mirrors with auto-dimming, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a digital compass, keyless entry, parking assist, LED headlights with high-beam assist, front and rear park sensors, wireless charging, and an electric rear spoiler. Cruise control and an active exhaust system are also included, and laser headlights are an option, as is dynamic steering. An active exhaust and adjustable magnetic dampers are also included, but the R8 Performance does without the latter, making for a firmer ride.
The R8's infotainment system is unconventional in that there is no central screen from which the infotainment system can be accessed. Instead, this is controlled on the steering wheel and is viewed on the 12.3-inch driver info display. The screen can switch between regular engine info like rpm and speed as the main focal point, or have the navigation map or infotainment details presented front and center with other info to either side. Infotainment includes SiriusXM satellite radio, 4G LTE WiFi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system as standard in either version of the R8.
The Audi R8 has not been rated by J.D. Power for quality and reliability and is also free of recalls thus far. The 2019 model also did not suffer any recalls during its time on sale. Coverage from Audi comes in the way of a four-year/50,000-mile basic and powertrain warranty, a 12-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty, and roadside assistance for a four-year/unlimited-mileage period. You also get complimentary maintenance for the first year or 10,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The Audi R8 is too expensive a car to be crash-tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA. Unfortunately, it isn't well-equipped with many of the usual features that you'd expect in an expensive car, and only has anti-lock brakes, stability control, seatbelt pretensioners, and airbags. The airbags included are dual front- and side-impact airbags, overhead airbags, and knee airbags. No advanced driver aids are equipped as standard, other than a parking assist system.
The R8 is not equipped with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, or any of the other usual advanced driver aids that can be found elsewhere in their product offering. Instead, you make do with eight airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. LED headlights or LED and laser headlights with high-beam assist are also included, but not much else. On the plus side, you do get a parking assist system with park sensors at the front and rear of the car. Bottom line: don't bin it.
In a world totally obsessed with electrification and alternative sources of power to propel vehicles of the future, a relatively analog and uncompromised supercar with no turbos or energy regeneration systems is a breath of fresh air, even if that air contains carbon monoxide. The R8 provides all-weather traction and phenomenal handling in a package that includes a brilliant soundtrack, both from the standard B&O audio setup and from the Lambo-sourced 5.2-liter V10. Where other cars are muffled and drive themselves, the R8 provides security without putting you to sleep. It demands your respect but allows you to have fun with it. Yes, it's expensive, and yes, it's impractical, but what supercar isn't? The R8 is special in that it can thrill and excite, and still take you to work without annoying everyone around you. Not to be forgotten is that this may well be the last generation of naturally-aspirated R8s, so perhaps you can convince your significant other that this is a future classic, and therefore an investment. Whatever it takes to get one in your garage, it's worth it.
The most expensive of the R8s is the Decennium limited-edition model that is fundamentally identical to regular R8 models, besides its special wheels and stitching. If you have $214,995, you can try to get one, but all 50 are likely already accounted for and will be auctioned at a profit over the next few years. In terms of available models, the R8 is the starting point, with a base price of $169,900. Stepping up to the R8 Performance will set you back at least $195,900. Fully outfitted with options, this model will exceed $222,000, inclusive of the $1,250 destination charge and $1,300 gas guzzler tax.
Just two trims are available in the R8 lineup: V10 and V10 Performance.
The standard Audi R8 V10 comes with 5.2-liter V10 (shocker) that develops 562 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The model is only available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and Quattro all-wheel-drive. Speaking of wheels, the R8's are 19-inch items, with 20s optional. LED headlights are standard, with laser lighting available, and the cockpit features heated seats with power-adjustment, as well as dual-zone climate control, Alcantara headlining and Nappa leather upholstery. Keyless entry, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, an electrically-deployable rear wing, and adaptive magnetic dampers are also standard. You also get a 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio setup, wireless charging, and a 12.3-inch driver instrument display with navigation and smartphone connectivity.
The R8 V10 Performance has an upgraded engine with 602 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. It also gets carbon fiber trimmings on the interior and sports seats. However, these seats do without adjustment, and the performance focus is further amplified by the deletion of the B&O sound system that you now have to pay extra for. On the plus side, you get 20-inch wheels, laser headlights, and carbon-ceramic brakes as standard. In addition, the trunk features a fixed carbon-fiber wing.
The base R8 has access to some of the Performance model's upgrades, including the Carbon Interior package. This $3,400 package adds glossy carbon-fiber inlays to the center console, digital instrument binnacle (or Virtual Cockpit if you speak Audi), and air vent surrounds. Another cosmetic upgrade is the Diamond Stitch Full Leather package, which predictably adds diamond-stitched quilting to the seats and headliner. The Performance model can also have this $5,000 package added, but it removes the sport seats that are standard there. A useful upgrade for your base R8 is the laser light setup that is included with the Performance model - this enhancement will cost an extra $3,500. Other notable options include 20-inch wheels, black exterior badging, and a carbon exterior package that adds carbon-fiber to the sideblades, engine bay, and, in the case of the R8 Performance, the rear diffuser and rocker inlays.
Based on looks alone, the R8 Performance with its carbon-fiber fixed rear wing is a slightly more attractive option than the already-pretty R8. In addition, you get 40 hp more and a smattering of carbon in the interior and engine bay. 20-inch wheels are also standard on this model. However, if you're a little larger than average, you may want to consider swapping out the tight Performance-spec seats for the ones found in the standard variant. Essentially, the R8 Performance is for the person who wants ultimate performance and is willing to make sacrifices for it. The regular R8 is more comfortable with adaptive dampers, comfy seats, and a phenomenal sound system as standard. For daily use, we'd prefer the regular R8.
If you're after an exotically styled sports car with breathtaking acceleration and all-wheel-drive, you may want to consider the Acura NSX. Its method of propulsion is considerably different to that of the R8, as it uses both turbocharging and electric thrust to provide neck-breaking performance, whereas the raw R8 simply uses displacement and Lamborghini expertise to make noise and power. The 3.5-liter V6 in the NSX is a twin-turbo motor that produces 573 hp, more power than you'll get out of the base R8. It also generates 70 lb-ft more torque. It manages all this despite being cheaper at $157,500 compared to the R8's $169,900. Due to hybridization, its a more economical vehicle too, although the tank is smaller at 15.6 gallons. Although the interior is more conventional than the Audi's, one could well argue that the Acura just feels like a fancy Honda, with a few too many hard plastics dotted around the cabin. Safety-wise, the NSX is similar to the R8 in that there are few aids, and it's just as impractical. At the end of the day, the choice will come down to what you're looking for and what makes you feel the most special. For us, it's the R8's howling V10. No question.
A far less powerful, but still exotic, German offering is BMW's i8. The $147,500 hybrid could well be the car for you if you want to be a baller on a smaller budget. Before we get to the obvious performance deficit with the Bimmer's 1.5-liter inline-three, we need to accept that the i8 is intended to be a unique kind of sports car, albeit an expensive one, and not an out-and-out supercar. The powertrain in the BMW produces a respectable 369 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, and although that is low compared to the Audi, it's built more as a Porsche 911 rival and makes up for its deficit with impressive handling. A sense of occasion is added with the stunning gullwing doors, and of course, it's hard to ignore how far you can get with the i8, as its combined mpg rating is 27 compared to the R8's 16. The i8 also looks smaller but is actually more than 10 inches longer than the R8, and despite its complex packaging and batteries, has a relatively useful trunk area, with 5.4 cubes of volume. Of course, the i8 will never thrill in the way an R8 can, but it looks amazing and shows your neighbors that you're environmentally conscious while still rubbing your success in their faces. As far as sports cars go, however, the R8 will definitely put a bigger smile on your face.